Parishioners of a Norwood Young America church are outraged by vandals' damage and destruction to more than 100 century-old tombstones.

And they may have to foot the $30,000 clean-up bill.

In a secluded cemetery underneath towering cedar and pine trees, vandals toppled a majority of the granite headstones in St. John's Lutheran Church's cemetery. Most of the graves date to the late 1800s.

"This is disgusting, this is downright disgusting," said LaVonne Byer, 71, who surveyed the damage Friday after making 13 dozen cookies for the church's Sunday service. "For anyone to have done this and to have had fun doing it ... It makes you mad."

Reviewing the damage for the first time on Friday, the Rev. David Winter said those responsible toppled the tombstones in late August, likely over several nights. The exurban community of 3,600 residents is on the southwest fringe of the metro area.

The incident wasn't initially reported, he said, with hopes they'd catch the vandals if they returned. Authorities suspect more than one person was involved because of the size of the damaged stones.

Now, the Carver County Sheriff's Office is asking anyone with information on the incident to call 952-361-1231.

Winter said he guesses it was likely bored kids.

"We've had from time to time, one or two pushed over, but never to this extent," he said. "We'd hope they'd make it right ... by stepping forward and doing the right thing."

Winter said that amid the damaged tombstones, the vandals left behind evidence of a fort and a fire along with a hatchet and other tools.

The cemetery is more hidden than the church's two other nearby cemeteries, but it also has the oldest graves, between 1865 and 1920, during the church's earliest years.

"One like this one, you'll never be able to put back together," Winter said, pointing to a grave dating to 1885, crumbled into pieces.

Stopping by the cemetery on Friday, Marlaine Gnan found the large headstone of her husband's grandfather to be one of the few graves still intact. The vandalism of headstones, she said, takes a piece of families' history.

"If somebody's working on genealogy, they can't find anything," the 75-year-old said. "I'm sorry to see it's this bad."

Winter said he hopes that damaged tombstones can be pieced together in the next two or three weeks with skid-loaders and other machinery.

It will cost an estimated $30,000 but the church's insurance won't cover nearly half of it, he said. Instead of the church footing the rest, he said, he hopes volunteers step up to do some of the work.

Several people already have contacted the church to volunteer and Winter said nearby towns have offered to help.

"Maybe a lot of good can come out of this -- getting the community together and educating kids about what needs to be done," Winter said.

Of the vandals, he added, "There is forgiveness."

Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141